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Guru of controversy: Ramdev threatens to become NDA's Rasputin

Back in the days when I was somewhat obsessed with Ramdev’s alternative therapies, a minister in the Maharashtra cabinet had warned me about being too taken in by the yoga guru, Sujata Anandan writes.

columns Updated: Jul 16, 2014 02:41 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times

Back in the days when I was somewhat obsessed with Baba Ramdev’s alternative therapies — and this was much before his Ramlila Maidan contretemps — a minister in the Maharashtra Cabinet had warned me about being too taken in by the yoga guru.

I was surprised for the man had himself hosted Ramdev at his ministerial bungalow. "But then I discovered the price I might have to pay," said the minister.

Bombay’s top police officials had warned him about the company the Baba keeps — in the metropolis most of his activities were financed by a dance bar owner who, more often than not, lived on the edge and walked on the wrong side of the law. Not only were Ramdev’s camps funded by this man, many of his major outlets across the city were too.

My obsession eventually wore off and I was disenchanted after the exposes of his tax frauds, his island in Scotland (who funded that, I have always wanted to know), his land grabs, the alleged disappearance of his guru — I have simply lost count of the allegations against him.

If he had stuck to just his yoga, Ramdev might yet have achieved more. But meddling in politics must have lost him a lot more than just my support. Now, so many regimes in India have had their own Rasputins — Mrs Indira Gandhi had Dhirendra Brahmachari and PV Narasimha Rao had Chandraswami — and they led to the downfall of their masters. I am convinced Baba Ramdev will similarly upset all of Narendra Modi’s equations in this country. For a man is known by the company he keeps and the new regime in Delhi seems unduly dependent on Ramdev and his emissaries — Ved Pratap Vaidik might well have been a journalist but isn’t he better known as the man who got Nitin Gadkari, then BJP president, to touch Ramdev’s feet and thereby script a new story for India and the BJP?

But even though Ramdev might be used to keeping the company of the nefarious elements of society, I would have thought he would have spared a thought for the martyrs of 26/11 — listening to Vaidik give a clean chit to the mastermind of those attacks, Hafiz Saeed, made my blood boil. Did Tukaram Omble die for nothing? What about Vijay Salaskar, Hemant Karkare and Ashok Kamte who were shot in cold blood by Saeed’s gunmen? And has the sacrifice of Captain Sandeep Unnikrishnan and Havaldar Gajender Singh been so easily forgotten, not to speak of the hundreds of people who died, were injured or are otherwise traumatised by those attacks?

Still, for the first time since May 16, I have stopped mourning for Mother India and am finally able to see why my likeminded friend then had asked me to actually celebrate — the new regime will not be able to better the UPA’s record, he had told me. "I know these bigots very well. They will never be able to get anything right. And they will self destruct."

I did not think that the unraveling would begin so soon but I once again recall what former PM VP Singh had once told me: That, more often than not, the extreme Right and the extreme Left are in complete agreement about everything that is wrong and unjust. That also extends to fundamentalists, he said — so our very own saffron bigots will find common cause with the jihadis — and doesn’t Vaidik’s statement that both sides of Kashmir be united and given their freedom gel with Saeed’s own views on the issue?

When General Pervez Musharraf had come calling at Agra, Singh had told me, "If anyone can sort out the Kashmir issue, it is these two (the General and the BJP)." But I think even he would have been shocked by Vaidik’s views — and who is either Ramdev or even Vaidik fooling by pretending that the visit had no official sanction and was just a journalistic adventure?

To borrow from my senior colleague Kumar Ketkar, the NDA’s mirror is now clearly held up for all to see and you know what? The mirror is cracked!

First Published: Jul 15, 2014 22:33 IST